by the Rev. Barbara Threet
One of the real joys for me as your minister last year was facilitating the Building Your Own Theology class, with its rich discussions about what God is (or isn’t), where we find the Holy (or don’t), what human nature is, and what suffering and prayer mean, among other topics. This fall, to my delight, many in the class have decided to continue our meetings. (They’re from 10:30 to noon on the Saturday mornings before the third Sunday, and since we begin by reflecting on readings I’ve sent out a week or so earlier, if you’d like to join us please let me know so I can put you on the distribution list).
This past session, we explored what gives meaning to life, and where we find meaning now and in the past. I am, as usual, awed by the thoughtful observations of the participants, and by the honesty with which we all approach our various topics. As the days have gone by since our discussion, I’ve found myself thinking several times about what might be unique to how UUs find meaning, or at least more common for us UU searchers than might be the case in other religions or populations.
We certainly find meaning in service, in engagement with a variety of social justice projects and various forms of community involvement. There was a general consensus that most of the time, meaning comes through connection and community rather than in isolation.
But I’m struck by how much meaning we find in exploration and questioning, in continuing to learn and develop. There are certainly groups and individuals who find meaning in convincing others of the ‘right’ theology, or the correct stance on a social issue, or the most important goals in life. While most of us UUs hold strong personal opinions about a lot of issues, we don’t seem to find a great deal of meaning in persuading the world that ours is the One Right Way. We tend to value questions, and at our best, we’re even willing to shift our own opinions as we gain more information, which we often actively search out.
We find meaning in the natural world as well as in intellectual exploration. It matters to us to live in harmony with the world around us, to notice and care for things as simple as trees and pets. Beauty matters to us, and compassion, and connection. We find meaning in learning more about one another, and in sharing our diverse ideas and experiences – both in hearing others’ words and in knowing that our own are carefully listened to. And we find meaning in noticing all these things, and in being appreciative of them and grateful for them and for each other.
For me, one of the places I find meaning as your minister is in discussions such as we’ve been sharing, and in other similar discussions that I’ve been privileged to share with several of you one on one. As several class members have said, there aren’t a lot of places in life where one can sit for an hour and a half and ponder questions such as these – or places where one can request and receive time to chat about deep topics one on one without paying for it. The process of speaking and listening is meaningful in itself, and sustaining, and enriching.
It is a blessing. It is a blessing to be. It is a blessing to be together.
And it is a blessing to be together, here at UUCGF, with all of you.
May your Thanksgiving holiday give you meaningful moments, and many reasons to be grateful.
Shalom and Salaam,